A flood-damaged carpet not only hurts your pocket book - it can also endanger your health. Establishing the source of the leak or flood causing the water damage is very important, as it will determine whether you should attempt water damage restoration of your carpet or whether your treasured heirloom has, sadly, become an unsalvageable health hazard. Water damage to a carpet that is caused by “black water” (heavily contaminated water containing untreated sewage) means that the carpet must be replaced because it is impregnated with dangerous bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause serious diseases.
Water damage restoration should only be considered when the water damage is caused by clean water or by “unsanitary” water (water that is only slightly contaminated, such as dirty dishwater or contaminated toilet water overflows). Whatever the type of water damage, the wet padding underneath carpeting must be discarded because it is impossible to clean. Mold (which may contain hazardous allergens) grows on a carpet if it remains damp for over 12 hours, so water clean up and carpet restoration should be attended to as quickly as possible.
Under sanitary conditions only, you may attempt water clean up of your home or water damage restoration of your carpet yourself. Below is a list of the basic steps to follow:
1. Turn off the water source to prevent further water damage.
2. Ascertain whether water damage restoration is possible, and whether you should do it yourself i.e. determine the cause of the flooding and the degree of cleanliness of the water.
3. Take the carpet outside. If it is too heavy to move, lift it off the floor, tear off the padding, and keep the carpet elevated using old furniture or other props.
4. As the carpet drains, start the water clean up. Remove standing water with a mop or wet vacuum cleaner then disinfect the floor by scrubbing it thoroughly with a detergent and bleach solution.
5. It’s important to ventilate the room where the water damage occurred to reduce humidity. Leave all closet doors open too.
6. During water clean up, use fans and air conditioners to increase air movement and lower humidity.
7. After about 12 hours, your carpet should be dry enough so you can lay it down flat (if you don’t, it may loose its shape). Keep the air circulating and reduce humidity as much as possible all through the process, and make sure floor surfaces are completely dry.
If your carpet has been damaged by unsanitary water, or if it’s been wet long enough to start growing mold, you should use the services of a professional water damage restoration firm. Professional water clean up services use industrial fans running at high speed (high velocity air movers) to dry carpets. These are left running for at least 36 hours. To remove the moisture released into the air during the drying process, they use high capacity dehumidifiers. Water clean up companies will usually use hot-water extraction (steam cleaning) to clean the carpet and then apply chemicals to both sides of the carpet to sanitize it.
Don’t risk your health to save your pocket-book – but if you must take part in cleaning up unsanitary water yourself, remember to wear protective clothing.
Safety Precautions for Sewage Clean-Up
Whatever its extent, water damage caused by sewage is always a health threat because of the contaminants it contains. Safety precautions must always be observed both during sewage water clean up and when undertaking water damage restoration of objects that have been in contact with sewage.
Certain segments of the population (small children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with chronic respiratory problems or weak immune systems) are more vulnerable to health risks and must avoid sewage-contaminated locations until after the water clean up is completed.
Many of the safety precautions to observe when dealing with water damage caused by sewage are simple, common sense ones. To avoid infection, it is imperative not to come into direct contact with sewage, so wearing protective clothing during water clean up is imperative. Remember though, protective gear (disposable plastic gloves, goggles and face visors, leak proof rubber boots etc.) won’t do you any good if you absentmindedly rub your eyes, scratch your nose, pull at your ears or pop something into your mouth with your plastic-gloved hands or fingers while engrossed in water damage restoration of sewage contaminated objects. If you have any cuts or sores on your hands or fingers, take extra precautions to cover them up, and apply antibiotic ointment after you have finished working.
When it’s time to break for lunch after sewage water clean up, slip off those plastic gloves and wash your hands with disinfectant before you grab that sandwich. You should wash your hands frequently, using the disinfectant every time. Hopefully the water damage to your home (if it is your home) won’t have affected all the showers because you should be able to shower frequently using disinfectant soap, a nail brush and clean towels.
Some of the objects contaminated by sewage are salvageable, and can be saved by water damage restoration processes. Others, particularly exposed food, objects made of porous material like stuffed toys, carpeting, upholstered furniture, all books and paper products and all medical supplies, will have to be disposed of - and the sooner the better.
Salvageable items that can be restored to pre-water damage condition must be disinfected. Contaminated clothes must be washed in hot water and detergent. If the original cause of water damage was in your home, it’s best to use a Laundromat or to send your laundry out to be dry-cleaned.
Sanitizing is a main part of water damage restoration of objects contaminated by sewage. The sanitization process to follow varies slightly according to the extent of contamination (length of time the sewage has been in contact with the contaminated areas / objects, content of sewage and porosity of affected items). That’s why the first and most important safety precaution is to begin treatment as soon as possible. The longer sewage remains in the affected location, the more of a health risk it becomes. If you don’t react immediately, more of your belongings will be too contaminated for water damage restoration. Although it is best to get a professional assessment to determine which decontamination techniques are needed for each case, some general hygiene guidelines you should observe are listed below:
• You don’t need to discard food in sealed metal cans. However, you should remove the labels, wash the cans in detergent and place them in a chlorine solution (bleach and water), then air dry.
• Clean all affected walls and hard surfaces with hot water and detergent and disinfect with a chlorine solution. After water clean up, let dry completely to guard against mold.
• Toxic vapors develop when bleach is mixed with ammonia. So remember not to use ammonia cleansers on items or surfaces that you had previously disinfected with a chlorine solution.
• You should use hand sanitizers – but don’t come near a source of flame after you’ve just done so.
• Finally, as in all water damage situations, remember to immediately disconnect all electrical equipment (including battery back-ups).